Golden football presentation highlights Anderson's return to Batavia
Batavia's football program has had plenty of reasons to celebrate in recent years.
Two years ago, the Bulldogs captured their first state football championship with a 34-14 victory over Richards in the Class 6A title game at Northern Illinois University's Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.
Batavia, which placed second in the 2006 Class 6A state playoffs, has qualified for postseason play in 16 of the last 19 years, including the past 5 seasons.
The Bulldogs have compiled an impressive record of 46-5 over the last 4-plus campaigns.
They will carry a 28-game unbeaten streak in Upstate Eight Conference River Division action into Friday night's clash at St. Charles North.
Incidentally, their last conference loss came at the hands of the North Stars (38-28) in October of 2010.
Last weekend, the Bulldogs' football program had another great reason to celebrate -- and I'm not just talking about the team's 28-0 victory over St. Charles East -- in a game that began Friday night and wrapped up Saturday morning due to thunderstorms that suspended play 7 minutes into the opening quarter last Friday.
Batavia graduate (1967) Ken Anderson, who went on to enjoy a 16-year National Football League career as a quarterback with the Cincinnati Bengals, returned to his roots last week and addressed the football team Thursday evening.
Anderson, who also spent 17 seasons in the NFL as an assistant coach/quarterbacks coach with Cincinnati, Jacksonville and Pittsburgh, presented a "golden football" to the Bulldogs' gridiron senior captains as part of the NFL's celebration of the 50th Super Bowl, scheduled for Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif.
The NFL is paying homage to high schools throughout the world that have helped produce future Super Bowl competitors, organizing the delivery of nearly 3,000 golden footballs to more than 2,000 high schools.
The list includes schools in American Samoa, Austria, Australia, Canada, Germany and Norway, along with 48 U.S. states (except Vermont and New Hampshire).
Anderson, who was one of 14 Batavia Public Schools Hall of Honor inductees last weekend, played in Super Bowl XVI during the Bengals' 26-21 loss to the Joe Montana-led San Francisco 49ers. The game remains the highest-rated sporting event in history.
"Batavia has always been a special place for me," said Anderson, who was the Bengals' 3rd-round draft pick from then-Augustana College in Rock Island. "My dad was a custodian at the high school."
Growing up as a Bears fan, Anderson began playing football in 7th grade before becoming a 3-sport standout (football, basketball, baseball) in high school.
"There were so many great moments," said Anderson, who threw for 32,838 yards and 197 touchdowns during his illustrious NFL career. "This has brought back so many wonderful memories. I've had the opportunity to see a lot of old friends around town."
Anderson also spoke to the Batavia players about tradition, pride and excellence during last Thursday's ceremony.
"Do your job and play within yourself," said Anderson. "Football is not a complicated game."
It's not every day that a high school student-athlete has the chance to meet a former Super Bowl quarterback -- a fact not lost on the Bulldog players.
"It's really just an honor being in the presence of a legend here at Batavia," said senior defensive back and co-captain Brett Bowman. "This is the first time he has been back in I don't know how many years.
"It's really special having somebody like this in your community who is willing to come back and share this moment with us as a team. It definitely makes us realize and understand the tradition that we have here."
Bulldogs coach Dennis Piron was pleased that his players could meet and listen to an NFL great and other Batavia dignitaries Bob Dahlstrom, Tom Tyrer (son of Hall of Honor inductee Gene) and Mayor Jeff Schielke.
"You could tell how excited our boys are," said Piron. "The kids were thrilled. They know J B Nelson School -- that's a person these guys knew. To hear those connections -- it's amazing. They heard all these stories about the mayor being the tour guide at the new high school (in 1966). Some of them toured people around this school last year."
Anderson carried the school flag while leading the varsity players on the field last Friday night.
"When I first found out, I asked, 'how heavy is it,' " joked the 66-year-old Anderson, who lives with his wife, Cristy, in Hilton Head, S.C.
"It was a pretty easy choice," said Bowman.
"I'm glad that we were able to connect with him," Piron said of Anderson. "He's a Batavian. He's a Bulldog."
Craig Brueske can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.